You don’t need to BYOB (bring your own boat) or hope for an invite to crew in order to get a front row seat racing in the Caribbean’s biggest and most exciting regattas. There are several great opportunities to charter. These include everything from renting an entire boat to signing on for a crew slot.
Steven Landy, who crewed with fellow members of the Norwalk, CT-based Sound Sailing Center (SSC) on the Hanse 40, Bermuda High, in last year’s St. Thomas International Regatta, says, “A regatta charter is a great way to explore racing if you haven’t done it before.”
Regatta charters are gaining popularity each year, explains Brittany Weatherby, North American marketing manager for Clearwater, FL-headquartered Sunsail, the official yacht charter sponsor of Antigua Sailing Week. “We have had a number of our sponsored regatta’s sell our fleet out for their spring regattas. One of the greatest additions is the use of Sunsail as a cruising option for yacht clubs looking to give their members a winter cruising opportunity. Many of these groups will charter a number of Sunsail yachts to race in the larger Caribbean regattas.”
Most important is for potential racers to match their skills and experience with the type of regatta charter that best fits their needs, explains Peter Anthony, director of Ondeck Antigua. “Some individuals are very experienced while others are complete novices. Therefore, they need to be sure that the yacht they join has the same orientation and can offer training at the novice level and the right challenges for the seasoned racer. They also need to look at how serious the racing will be on that yacht. Most yachts are serious about the racing and the partying!”
Ondeck Antigua offers a mix of racing yachts from company-owned Beneteau 40.7s, a Santa Cruz 37 and a Farr 65 to yachts they act as agent for such as a Beneteau First 50, a 77ft ocean racing yacht and a Grand Soleil 43.
Small yachts, in general, are usually chartered in their entirety.
“There’s been resurgence in small boat racing as compared to the 60 to 80-footers,” says Paul Stoeken, owner/operator of Island Sol in St. Thomas, which charters IC-24s for the St. Thomas International Regatta. “We’ve had people from on-island charter one of our ICs and bring their buddies down to race. We’ve also had teams from St. Maarten, Spain and Italy charter. Our boats are race ready.”
The price to charter an entire yacht that’s 40 to 60-plus-feet in length ranges from US $12,000 to $25,000, says Ondeck’s Anthony. “Regattas do vary in price due partly to duration but mainly supply and demand with Antigua Sailing Week and the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta being the most expensive. We include race entry and berthing within our pricing and onboard accommodation. One or two practice days and delivery of the yacht to the regatta is also included.”
Prices range from US $1500 to $2400 for a crew spot on a yacht for a regatta, Anthony adds. “For individuals, we include food and drink whilst racing and accommodations on board.”
Performance Yacht Charters, based in the UK, offers both types of regatta charters. Their First 40, Southern Child, and J/120, Sunset Child, are chartered by the yacht and their Swan 51, Northern Child, is chartered by the crew slot.
“The individuals who charter individually as crew are usually a lot less experienced,” explains Christian Reynolds, who owns PYC with wife Lucy. Both hold RYA Yachtmaster Ocean licenses and serve as the professional crew on board Northern Child, with ten to 12 slots available for crew. “Based on a person’s size and experience, we’ll put them in a sensible place or where they’d like to be and train them in that position. We teach a proper racing experience and frequently have podium finishes.”
Group charters where fees range from US $600 to $800 per person is what Martin Van Breems offers aboard his SSC’s Bermuda High. “I skipper at the starts and then hand the helm over. Everyone (who wants to) takes turns driving. We spend lots of time rotating through positions to help everyone learn and grow.”
Those who’d like the experience of racing aboard a multi-hull can sign up for a crew slot aboard Fast Cat Cruising’s Outremer 55, Teora. “No experience is required,” invites Maas Hanen, who is based in St. Maarten and owns the yacht with partner Cristina Figueira.
A big advantage of a race charter, by the yacht or by the slot, is the ease of logistics.
Sunsail’s Weatherby explains, “Participation in a regatta is structured the same ways as our charters. The charterers pick their boat up at the Sunsail base, go give it their all in the regatta and then drop the yacht back at the base upon their departure.”
Finally, there’s more to a regatta charter than just the racing.
Landy, who crewed on the SSC’s Bermuda High, tells, “At the end of each day we all went swimming right off the boat in the cove we moored in, rum and coke in hand. We also attended great parties each evening sponsored by the regatta and met lots of new people from the other boats. It was a lot of fun.”